Todd’s academic bureaucracy bleg

Todd Zywicki asks:

I’m looking for literature analyzing academic bureaucracies, especially
from a public choice-type perspective. The parallels with government
bureaucracies seem obvious in terms of empire-building and
budget-maximizing proclivities, but I haven’t been able to turn up any
good resources that gives me a good model and analysis of the problem.

Leave your suggestions in MR comments, also check the unusually quiet VC readers.  I’ll recommend Henry Hansemann on non-profits, plus that JPE article on why tenure allows professors to hire smart people without fear of being laid off because of the new competition.  Who is the market-oriented researcher from the south with all the papers on academic rent-seeking?  Let’s not forget Tullock’s The Organization of Inquiry or Buchanan’s Academia in Anarchy, that rant against the 1960s. 

The quest for control is often more important than budget maximization, but arguably the same is true in political bureaucracy as well.  Budget maximization is an overrated hypothesis.  Status also often plays a larger role than budget, especially in research universities.

My view is that the gains from making the most productive people autonomous (i.e., tenure) outweigh the costs from all the resulting nonsense, but of course that is a self-serving attitude.  Unlike in a political bureaucracy, a small percentage of the workers produce most of the valued outputs.  So if many people shirk, tenure doesn’t actually waste that much in terms of resources.

And why do good universities need those silly silly endowments? 


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